Hounded by Kevin Hearne
Book 1 of the Iron Druid Chronicles
I wish someone had told me ages ago that this book isn’t about a teen discovering his powers and going off to a Hogwarts-for-Druids to have Percy-Jackson-like adventures. After hearing cautionary tales about what happens in books when teens discover they have superpowers, I steeled myself and picked up the book.
But it turns out, the main character isn’t a teen at all – he’s ancient. Discovering that in the first few pages made me super-curious. How was Kevin Hearne gonna pull off a character who had been born only a little after the close of the iron age?
The answer: he’s very good at pretending to 21, with occasional flashes of old.
Born over two thousand years ago, Siodhachan (pronounced SHE-a-han) has since moved to Arizona and changed his name to a more reader-friendly Atticus O’Sullivan. Now he lives with his talking hound familiar, watches over a magic sword, and is doing his very best to stay under the supernatural radar. When you’re as old as Atticus, you have plenty of baggage, and gods hold grudges forever. One Celtic god in particular wants Atticus’ head on a stick, and he’s just tracked Atticus down.
Enter one goddess of death, a vampire attorney, a magic pendant, a coven of plotting witches, and a powerful Hindu sorceress with an ax to grind. Just a day in the life of Atticus O’Sullivan, bookstore owner and undercover druid.
Hearne’s world-concept caught my imagination immediately; in Atticus’ world, all larger than life myths exist, sometimes as more than one version of itself, depending on how many cultural variations there are. In fact, that’s why Atticus is hiding out in Arizona. It’s far, far away from the European creatures of myth and from the Celtic pantheon.
The detective element of this urban fantasy is less of a whodunnit and more of a I-dun-wanna-be-done-in, as Atticus finds himself in the crosshairs. In the midst of the fast pacing, upbeat dialogue, a few jump-in-the-sack encounters, and a smart-alec dog familiar, Atticus needs to figure out who his friends are, what the witches are plotting, and what the vengeful Celtic god of love is cooking up. The first book of five (so far) in the Iron Druid Chronicles sets up a fun concept and a cadre of intriguing characters for its sequels. If you’ve enjoyed books like Fernsworth’s Blood Oath series, Green’s Man with the Golden Torc, or I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, this series needs to be on your to-read list.
Still, a few canaries did end up fleeing the rating perch as I read. I have many of the same complains about Hounded that I did about Storm Front, the very first Dresden book by Jim Butcher: flat female characters channeling enough juvenile drama to put Glee to shame, melodramatic encounters, and humor that worked here and there, and then just rubbed me the wrong way (don’t get me started on the poodles). The main character had a few flashes of Gary Stu-dom (though I will qualify that with the fact that he could have hardly survived two milennia without learning a thing or two) and my brain kept grumbling at the lackadaisical childish behavior of the gods.
All in all, a humor-meets-battle-for-survival, rush-to-the-finish-line story that might disappoint if you’re looking for character nuance or world-building, but a great read if you’re in for a hero out to take on a pantheon of squabbling gods with his trusty dog sidekick.
Copy of novel courtesy of Random House Publishing.
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